What powers does the Disability Royal Commission have to request information from NDIS providers?

This week many of the larger NDIS providers received a letter from the Disability Royal Commission notifying them that they may soon be issued with formal requests for information.

Under the Royal Commissions Act 1902 (Cth) the Commission has broad-ranging powers to compel persons to either produce a specified document or give particular information by way of a formal Notice to Produce or a Notice to Give Information. The Commission also has the power to specify a particular time by which the requested information must be supplied.

Penalties for non-compliance with reasonable requests made by the Commission range from fines to imprisonment. It is also an offence to intentionally provide false or misleading evidence.

What does this mean for disability providers?

The grounds on which a person may refuse to give evidence are extremely limited and requests for information will generally need to be strictly complied with.

Further, a key lesson from the recent Banking Royal Commission held last December is that a Commission may request that information be provided within stringent timeframes. Many businesses were surprised by the amount and complexity of requests issued by the Commission and were therefore ill prepared to respond adequately and on time. Criticism was levelled at those that failed to provide adequate responses or requested time extensions.

This highlights the need for NDIS providers to engage legal services and organise their document records as a matter of urgency.

How can providers prepare in advance?

Relevantly, the letter from the Disability Royal Commission suggests the types of information which may be the subject of a formal request. These include:

  • information about the types of services provided, the circumstances in which they are provided, and the number of people they are provided to;
  • complaints and/or notifications concerning violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation of people with disability;
  • documents recording the internal and/or external reporting of violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation of people with disability;
  • documents recording internal or external investigations and the results of any investigations;
  • policies, processes and/or procedures, including those relating to the recruitment and training of staff, handling of complaints, and risk reporting.

Notices are likely to focus on documents and information relevant to the period from mid-2012 onwards.

Providers should consider this list carefully and prepare documents likely to be requested by the Commission accordingly. This should be done ahead of time, before a formal notice is issued, so that the risk of having difficulty meeting time restraints is minimised. It is advisable that providers seek legal advice in regards to which documents are likely to be relevant.

How can we help?

If your organisation or business requires advice or assistance regarding a request for information in relation to the Disability Royal Commission, contact JFMLAW on (02) 9199 8597 or fill out the contact form below.